marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

tidbits cross time

In China, it was said that an instrument strung with lion sinews would, by being played, cause all the other strings in the orchestra's instruments to break.

Early modern industrialization used up so much wood in England as to produce a shortage. The first solution was for Parliament to forbid farmers from using any woodland not within two furlongs of their home.

The Roman rite of evocatio was to lure a foreign god to Rome, where the cult would continue, with great reverence but under Roman control. The first was to lure Juno from the Etruscan city of Veii. Dauring Hannibal's invasion, they performed it for Venus Erycina -- from the city of Eryx sacred to Aphrodite, thus identifying the goddesses.

In ancient Greece, people living an occupation would make a dedication at Delphi of a tool of the trade: gladiators would dedicate their swords, and sailors, an oar.

Taffeta was used in China as a medium of exchange before the coin-based economy got firmly settled in the T'ang dynasty.

Alexander the Great sent threatening messages to Carthage -- it was next after Asia.

The British took care to bring all their own servants to the Council of Vienna -- prudently, as anyone they could hire there was a spy.

Roman legions had their soldiers carry grain, and sent along a mill to grind it.

When German miners found what looked like copper ore, but couldn't get any copper out of it, they dubbed it Kupfernickel -- the devil's copper. When more advanced techniques extracted not copper but nickel, the stuff was named that for the term. Likewise, cobalt is named for kobolds, because of the way smelting it produces only a powder, and poisonous gases (from the arsenic always present in cobalt ore).

Ancient Greek writers said that while the kite would steal any exposed meat, but not that from sacrifices to Zeus.

Early English boosters of settlements (plantations, or plantings) in North America touted the timber they could export. It did do some, but the settlers found the timber so useful that Plymouth Plantation forbade its export without permission. (Not that that did not have its complications -- they had rejected one site as too wooded, producing danger of attacks and difficulty of clearing -- and finally landed where a tribe had cleared the location, and then been devastated by disease.)

When Arabs referred to Chinese ships during the T'ang dynasty, they meant non-Chinese ships that engaged in the China trade.

In Greek mythology, Artemis is the goddess of big-game hunters. Pan is the god of small-game hunters.

Carthage's two harbors were protected by seawalls of sandstone, covered with plaster. This not only protected them from the elements, but made them shining white, like marble.

Plentiful timber in colonial times meant that New Englanders could produce ships a third cheaper despite the higher labor costs. Ship merchants in Britain would buy them from New England to sell.

Ancient Greeks read omens into the flights of birds and dreams of birds -- storks, for instance, being propitious for children. Ancient Romans, more proactively, would get the birds to make predictions by feeding them and watching the signs.

T'ang laws forbade foreigners who had married Chinese women, or taken them as concubines, from leaving the country.

Christian X took a daily ride through Copenhagen unaccompanied, during the German occupation of WWII. A German soldier is said to have asked who protected him, and was told they all did.

Hannibal's invasion encouraged all sorts of superstitions among the Romans, with much complaint about unauthorized divinations and sacrifices. A general seizing control of this consulted the Sibylline books and among other things proposed a "sacred spring" -- where all the produce of the spring was dedicated to the deity of spring.

Periodic decrees during the T'ang dynasty -- particularly in reigns that wished to be solemn, virtuous, and war-like -- prohibited giving the emperor small, delightful gifts, like ponies instead of warhorses.

Cock-fighting in ancient Athens was put on at public expense. It was believed to inspire martial ardor; after all, a man did not want to be proven to have less fighting spirit than a bird.

The British turned to North America to avoid the precarious Baltic trade in mast timber -- oak being too heavy and not flexible enough, they had to import conifer wood -- and also because the white pines of North America were taller and broader than anything the Baltics could produce, and worked better, being lighter. Then the American Revolution came. Colonial forces were acting to prevent the export even before violence broke out. The Navy had to revert to Baltic wood, and they lacked the expertise in making composite ("made") masts from the smaller after decades of just using the bigger American logs. Some historians think it a major factor in British defeat.

Carthage's first coinage was made after an expedition to Sicily, when it was needed to pay the mercenaries. It mimicked the Greek coinage the mercenaries were used to as closely as possible.

The migration of cranes -- both the spring and the fall -- were used by ancient Mediterranean farmers to signal the time for necessary activities.

T'ang Chinese officials often imposed rules against foreigners and Chinese living in the same sections of cities, and against intermarriage.

The Herculean Way, by which Hercules had allegedly brought the cattle of Geryeon back to Greece from Spain, was deemed a route of great importance. It shifted about a lot as places claimed to have been on the route. One claim was that at the future site of Rome, Hercules had received his first sacrifices as to a god.

An Assyrian king once marched to the Mediterranean, had his weapons washed in it, and offered sacrifices to the gods. The Phoenician cities took the hint and offered him tribute.

At the Buphonia -- the ox-offering -- in ancient Athens, the oxen were driven to the altar, which had grain spread on it. When one ate, it was the chosen offering; a priest immediately killed it with an ax, and fled the scene. After the sacrificial feast, the ax was put on trial, and after all involved denied guilt, the ax itself was convicted, and thrown into the sea.

The Chinese used the caged parrot as a symbol of the folly of being overwise.

Grants of land, and leases, in early America often specified that the occupant had to plant an apple orchard and a peach orchard within a specified amount of time to lay claim to it. Some planted the trees before they built the house.

Crows in ancient Greece were regarded as faithful spouses who never remarry after being widowed. There were "crow songs" at weddings as a consequence. However, hearing a single crow at a wedding was a bad omen.

In China, the tallest horses were known as "dragons."

General Percy, leading the troops in the running battle of Concord, decided that instead of going to the bridge and crossing to Boston -- where he expected the Minutemen to gather -- he would go east and have them ferry over the harbor. This worked very well.

One Greek writer claimed that Carthage had adopted the worship of Demeter and her daughter Core only after their sacrilegious destruction of their temples in a Sicily campaign had been punished by a plague. As the worship of both goddesses was widespread in Punic Sicily, it's unlikely.
Tags: historical tidbits

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